S. Korean gov't to deploy more medical staff as senior doctors at 5 major hospitals take weekly breaks

South Korea
Photo: Yonhap

Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong said Monday that the government plans to deploy more medical staff as senior doctors at five major hospitals in Seoul decided to take a weekly day off starting this week, Yonhap reports. 

Cho also renewed a pledge to accomplish medical reform, although a mass walkout by trainee doctors has crippled public health services at major hospitals for more than two months.

The government will "further strengthen the emergency treatment system by sending more medical personnel to prevent damage to patients because of sudden resignations or leaves of absence by medical professors," Cho told a government response meeting.

Cho said the government will "unwaveringly push for medical reform," while calling for senior and junior doctors to stop their collective action against the government's plan to hike the number of medical students.

Last week, medical professors working for South Korea's five major hospitals -- Asan Medical Center, Samsung Medical Center, Severance Hospital, Seoul National University Hospital and Seoul St. Mary's Hospital -- decided to suspend their work either on a day, or on a weekly basis.

Those serving at Seoul National University Hospital will take a day off Tuesday, and Severance professors will take a weekly break starting Tuesday through end-May.

Asan center professors vowed not work Tuesday and Friday, and professors for Samsung and St. Mary's hospitals are discussing exactly when to take a day off.

About 12,000 trainee doctors have left their worksites since Feb. 20 in protest of the plan to boost the number of medical students by 2,000, causing delays in medical treatments, with some emergency rooms partially limiting their treatment of critically ill patients.

The government launched a special presidential commission on medical reform Thursday for talks on the issue with the medical community, including doctors.

It also decided to allow universities to decide their quotas by a range of 50 to 100 percent of what the government assigned for next year.

But doctors have rejected the proposals, calling for the government to revisit the issue from scratch.

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